There are increasing programs on using Social Media offered by a plethora of resources. Some just skim the surface, some overwhelm and others are so technical that the participant goes into shut down.
The following information is specifically for the novice and the technically challenged “baby boomer” who finds themselves in an unstable employment situation or job search. The focus will be exclusively on the use of LinkedIn for job search/career management since the two are companion topics.
Please refer to the previously published material in Managing Your Career Through Effective Social Networking for the basics of LinkedIn. This material will expand the applications of this professional Social Media format, not the logistics.
The “gap generation”; ages 55-62 are experiencing lay offs/job loss at a high level, take longer for re-employment and often exceed the COBRA period for health insurance (www.aarp.org). Many are behind the curve in the use of technology and the concept of Social Media, so time is of the essence to catch up. Besides the logistics there are several areas to focus on:
• You have to have strategy and your profile must display you and your needs in an accurate, professional manner. Looking for employment has no place on LinkedIn; it de-values the person. LinkedIn is a marketing channel and should be used as one. For those who are currently employed “career opportunities” are still applicable in the Interests section of your profile.
• Content is to the point but not too sparse or at the other extreme TMI (too much (irrelevant) information). You want offer resources as well as ask for information/resources. The give and take needs to be equally dispersed and to the point. No personal information, save that for Face Book. Be specific in your Summary section and avoid ambiguous or redundant terms (Results oriented profession, Proven track record of..., Self-motivated, Team player, Excellent communication skills, etc.) Use tangible, quantitative phrases for the readers benefit.
• Are you targeting the right people for connections? Often the contacts are too homogenous based on profession, geographical location or “stage of life”. You don’t want to populate your network with people just like you; mix it up. Do not include friends or family unless they’re applicable to your career or professional focus.
• LinkedIn features of Company and People Search must be utilized effectively. Research via these channels produces a wealth of information or contacts and above all a reason to talk with people.
• Join groups that involve direct contact, meetings or events. Lack of focus or directions in the groups you join will only produce clutter on your profile page. Cross over with membership can be good since it increases the potential of direct contact with members.
• Balance your time; avoid too much time or too little. You can’t be behind the computer screen for hours, nor can you just “dabble” with this format. You can tell how effective you are by the feature of Who Has Viewed your Profile. The number of hits is a direct indicator of who’s viewing you.
• You need to provide Updates on a regular basis (2-3 per week). Keep these items relevant to professional issues (events, changes, additions, comments regarding people in your network, requests for information, etc.) You want to remain fresh and interesting to your network.
• Learn to manage your network. Remember, quality over quantity and build your network over time. Dormant contacts ill serve both parties. Meet with people in your network from time to time and when there are specific issues/events that are important to both or either of you. Don’t rely solely of email correspondence, telephone and face to face accomplish much more and help to brainstorm. The “pay it forward” concept is very compatible to LinkedIn if used correctly. Always be willing to share information that will help your network.
Set up of this system will take some time. Expansion and maintenance must progress with a plan and strategies clearly defined. More time will be spent during certain research projects and only a few minutes is needed for quick “check ups” or updates. Learn by doing is still the best way to improve your skills using this Social Media tool. If mistakes are made, editing is instantaneous (thankfully). However, errors still can occur, so double check what you’re posting.
In a final thought, LinkedIn is truly one of the most user friendly forms of technology. This author is literally the benchmark for this statement. LinkedIn is also a dynamic format, not stationary. They make changes on a regular basis which all the more reason to use it consistently to be aware of those changes. Use key people your network as a sounding board for your ideas and needs. You increase the chances of the right people finding or contacting you either through LinkedIn or one of your connections. Again, this is one of your tools in job search/career management, not a magic bullet for instant results. It enhances your ability to find a good employer through connecting with people.